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Iron Man

Apparently, Iron Man is the second coming. Interested in seeing Jesus once again, I went to see the flick with Cas.

The truth it, it's not a bad film, but that's about it. A brief run down of the plot will give you billionaire playboy genius Tony Stark is kidnapped in Afghanistan, takes shrapnel in his heart, and then, rigged up to a car battery, does his impression of Ned Kelly, before returning to America to announce that weapons manufacturing is bad, Stark Enterprises will stop this, and then proceeds to create an Iron Man suit to go and beat up bad guys. The film hints, for a moment, at a dialogue between America's relationship with weapons makers and supplying the world, but it's a hint made by the subject matter, and not the film, and any dialogue that could be established is dropped for cardboard villains and a man in a red and gold suit smacking them around. Which is fine, of course; but the moment someone tells you that this film has subtext, you're to beat them pipe. And outside that kind of statement, Iron Man does very little wrong: Downey is well cast as Tony Stark, Jeff Bridges does his best with the role of the villain that lacks reasoning--why after thirty years decide to kill Stark?--and Gwyneth Paltrow is in a role that seems to be beneath her, an admittance I find strange, given that I've never been a fan of her. Oh, and there's another insufferable cameo by Stan Lee, which I'd really just wish they'd stop doing.

So, what's the problem, then?

It's passion.

There's no passion in this film. There's nothing about it that says, "Iron Man had to be made." There's no love, no defiance, no need, which is something that I found with Batman Begins, and almost every other superhero film I've seen--in fact, perhaps every one, but I'm sure there's been one or two when I haven't thought that. For some of those films, however, what does it matter? No passion in X-Men 3? Good: it was shit from beginning to end. No passion in the Punisher? Heh. Yeah, could anyone make sense of that? But Iron Man, with its good actors and its sometimes interesting director? Why are they here. Why aren't they making a film that they feel something about, which they are engaged with, and which will translate, then, across the screen and to a viewing pleasure for me? Perhaps it's an odd complaint to make, but I don't want to see Downey as Tony Stark, or Jon Favreau directing such a film. Okay, granted, only Made is a difference for him, and it's not that much of a change, given that he apparently directed Zathura: A Space Adventure, but still, the man can make a decent film, and shows some ability, and this is my point. The script was mostly rubbish in terms of dialogue and plot, but so many are--but there's Bridges, doing his best while smoking a cigar, and all I can think is, 'Why are you here, man? You're too good for this."

I ask this, because there is a sense to the film of boredom, of everything being done by the numbers from everyone, and it being a thing you do for cash, to pass the time, to reach another point and because of that, the film feels like a waste.

Consider this: there is a point in the film when Tony Stark, brilliant, with an army of scientists and billions in cash, says that it is time to change, time to stop making weapons to fund other projects, to stop with weapons that kill and damage and take accountability, and Iron Man is akin to that statement. It hurts no one, true, but the argument is that such a film allows for tiny, interesting, engaging films to be made, or some such thing; but as much as making weapons in the film is a waste of talent and resources, despite their successful outcomes, this film is also a waste of its resources. In the time that this film was made, the people involved could have gotten together, gone with a project that meant something to them, and infused it with such passion and love that it, successful or not, it would have been a thousand times more engaging than this hollow, but polished affair that keeps a franchise alive.

That's what I think, but y'know, perhaps, just perhaps, I'm jaded and cynical, and perhaps the film just wasn't for me. Plenty of others are masturbating over it and maybe you ought listen to them.

Comments

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angriest
May. 5th, 2008 06:22 am (UTC)
Just out of interest: have you liked any superhero movie before? From reading what you've posted, it comes across like you dislike the genre in general rather than this specific movie.
benpeek
May. 5th, 2008 06:26 am (UTC)
nah, i liked the first two x-men films.

honestly, man, i have nothing against superhero films. i just find so many of them passionless.
angriest
May. 5th, 2008 06:31 am (UTC)
Cool. I had a very different reaction to you on both Iron Man *and* Batman Begins, both of which I thought were made with a lot of passion and drive - *particularly* Batman Begins.
benpeek
May. 5th, 2008 06:35 am (UTC)
see, i like at the other films that have been made and there's very rarely a comparison.

BATMAN especially bothers me, in part because there is no reason to keep making batman films. it's done. over. bring me something new.
angriest
May. 5th, 2008 06:39 am (UTC)
But prior to Batman Begins, no one had done a Batman movie properly. They nailed the fact that ultimately Batman is about fathers and sons. Bruce's life haunted by Thomas Wayne, Alfred as a father figure to Bruce, and then in the comics with the while Batman/Robin angle.

And it's a good story. It's worth telling again and again because it resonates with its audience as popular myth.

I think saying "it's been done" is a very slippery slope to stand at the top of, because what in the end is going to be new? We've been telling stories for thousand and thousands of years. What else is there ever going to be for us to tell?
benpeek
May. 5th, 2008 06:46 am (UTC)
i don't think it's slippery in this case. you may say they got it right in this film, but i'd argue it was no more right than any of the previous films, and that it's not honestly a myth, either. it's a franchise. it's being told again and again because it keeps the franchise alive, and there is an audience that wants this. but there is no real deviation from any of the core elements that exist in each film.

to my way of looking at it, there's new, and then there's new. ultimately, if you break down fiction to a very basic premise, the deviations aren't very big. but that's what characterisation, style, tone, plot, theme, and all the other things that give a work of fiction substance provide. any artist worth their ability recognises this, and is always striving to push those boundaries--because it is here that the new is achieved, the audience is engaged, and all the good stuff arrives.

in these films, to me, there's nothing like that. perhaps it's simply that they have no ambition to do that that i find them so unrewarding. who knows.
angriest
May. 5th, 2008 07:02 am (UTC)
I mean popular myth in the sense that the common elements that drive one iteration of the character or another are ones that resonate very deeply with an audience and keep it popular: the abandoned child, the lone fighter for justice. It also cleverly inverts other elements of popular culture: the bat is the good guy, and the clown is the villain, for example.

I think there's a difference between pushing something because it continues to make money - Super Mario Bros, James Bond, whatever - and pushing something because audiences and readers continue to find resonance in the story that's being told.

And re: finding characterisation, style, tone, plot and theme, I honestly think David Goyer and Christopher Nolan found that with Batman Begins.

Iron Man? Maybe not, but it was as firm a franchise base as X-Men or Spider-Man.
benpeek
May. 5th, 2008 07:15 am (UTC)
i'm not quite sure you and me are on the same page of myth, popular or otherwise. what you describe there to me is just wish fulfilment, and that's what a lot of superhero stuff is. the revenge narrative of batman is a version of this, but so are the ideas that 'being different makes you special' and 'a being from another planet is here to make life good for us'. a myth, instead, makes a comment on life/creation of the world, something like that--god and jesus are myths for this reason. batman makes no such social connection.

i honestly don't know how you can split the hairs of bond and, say, batman, but i suppose it's taste. you seem to think much more highly of the flick than i do, anyhow.

also, i need to go to work now.

later.
angriest
May. 5th, 2008 07:30 am (UTC)
Bond is wish fulfilment. Batman taps into something deeper than that on a cultural level.

Anyway, I should work too - diverting as this is.
benpeek
May. 5th, 2008 11:29 am (UTC)
i think you could make an argument that batman taps into the wish fulfilment of getting revenge on those who perform an invasive act against you--break and enter on your house, rape, and so on and so forth, which would allow for the cultural connect in this day and age, but that's bout it for me.
strangedave
May. 5th, 2008 09:18 am (UTC)
what you describe there to me is just wish fulfilment
We all secretly wish our parents had been murdered, turning us into driven vigilantes?
benpeek
May. 5th, 2008 11:27 am (UTC)
batman works on the wish fulfilment of getting revenge on those who have wronged you, imo.
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